It’s a good thing that onions have thick skins — figuratively, of course.
“We followed a record-setting winter with one of the wettest springs in history with one of the coldest Junes in 50 years followed by one of the hottest Julys in 40 years. We’ve been through a little bit of everything,” said Shay Myers, general manager for Nyssa, Ore.-based Owhyee Produce.
Despite that weather onslaught, Myers reported the quality of the early varieties looked excellent.
On Aug. 3, he said the company had topped the onions the day before and would begin lifting and harvesting that night.
But only Owhyee Produce could claim a normal start to the Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion season. Other grower-shipper-packers faced delayed digging by 10-14 days because of the weather they endured this season.
Jon Watson, president of Parma, Idaho-based J.C. Watson Co., said he planned to start harvesting the early fields around Aug. 15 “in a conservative manner.” In the meantime, his company was still handling California onions and would be through the end of August.
Wet ground in the spring delayed the company’s planting, he said.
“We’re being very cautious to grow the onions out,” Watson said. “Onions are the kind of plant that likes to be grown out.”
He said he was excited to see very good quality and good tops in the field.
“Our own crop and our growers’ crops are on drip irrigation, and this is the year it’s going to pay off,” Watson said.
John Vlahandreas, a Salem, Ore.-based onion sales manager for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms, said his company had not started digging in the Eastern Oregon-Idaho region, but added the Washington deal had begun slowly but growers are starting to get into a rhythm.
The Idaho-Oregon region won’t start for another two weeks, he said on Aug. 8.
Oregon authorities have been battling numerous wildfires this summer.
“We’re getting a lot of heat right now and smoke from the fires,” Vlahandreas said. “Onions don’t like growing after 90 degrees so they are slowing down a little bit.”
But he thought the onions’ quality would be fine.
“It’s just a matter of if we’re going to size up or not and what our jumbo to medium ratio is going to be,” Vlahandreas said.
Nyssa, Ore.-based Snake River Produce Co. didn’t expect to receive onions until Aug. 17 and start packing on Aug. 22, said Kay Riley, general manager.
“I expect the quality to be just fine,” he said.
“Some of the stands are variable, and I think size might be off a little bit, but there’s no reason at this point to think that the crop won’t mature and be excellent.”
Grant Kitamura, CEO for Ontario, Ore.-based Baker & Murakami Produce Co. LLLP, said his company would begin harvesting the week of Aug. 14 and begin packing the week of Aug. 22.
“Every long-term weather forecast I’ve seen through September and into October looks warm,” he said.
“We have to have enough heat to finish growing and to cure.”
Chris Woo, partner in Baker & Murakami Produce and sales manager for Potandon Produce LLC, said the onions were bulbing out nicely and the recent weather had been good for the crop.
“We’re looking forward to the season ... and hopefully the market will be good and hopefully our growers will get good returns back.”